Does gay marriage have majority support?

To coincide with the release of a HREOC report on anti-gay discrimination, political spammers GetUp! have released a Galaxy poll (pdf) on the rights of same-sex partners.

This is the first time a survey has found majority support for gay marriage, with 57% of respondents agreeing that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. As GetUp!’s media release notes, this is a big increase on the last poll on gay marriage, a 2004 Newspoll that found 38% in favour. Could things have changed that much in two years?

Actually, less than two years. Over 2005 and 2006 there were three surveys on the seemingly less contentious issue of civil unions, with the proportions in favour ranging from 45% to 52%. That gay marriage now comes out ahead of civil unions, without any major intervening debate or publicity, inevitably raises question about whether opinion has really changed or it is something to do with the survey itself.

If real, the gain in support for gay marriage has come more from winning over undecideds than from converting those who were previously against it. The civil union polls had between 11% and 19% of respondents declining to offer an opinion, the Galaxy recorded only a 6% ‘don’t know’. Undecideds are presumably easier to win over than those who were initially opposed, but perhaps also more likely to be swayed by the considerations raised, or not raised, by the survey.

In this case, Galaxy started with a question about whether same-sex partners should have the same legal rights under Medicare and with superannuation as heterosexual partners, which 71% of respondents thought they should. Perhaps an initial question relating to seemingly arbitrary discrimination like these examples set the undecided up to continue with the logic of non-discrimination.

But I suspect a more important factor was the absence of a ‘neither’ option as an answer – possibly respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the same-sex marriage question, but a ‘don’t know’ was recorded for those who could not decide. The absence of any mention of children or adoption (or even the word ‘gay’) perhaps avoided the topics that cause most doubt about gay marriage, as has been apparent in previous debates on this blog.

Given my own views on this subject, I’d like to believe that opinion has shifted in the way recorded in Galaxy’s poll. While I certainly think the long-term trend is promising because there have already been shifts over time (in the earliest survey I have found on this subject, the 1989-90 National Social Science Survey, less than 15% were in favour of gay marriage), because the undecideds in earlier research suggest people are open to persuasion, and because the young are more in support than the old, the Galaxy results are too inconsistent with what other pollsters have found for me to accept this result as solid. I want to see a couple more surveys with similar results before I will be convinced.

5 thoughts on “Does gay marriage have majority support?

  1. I agree that you should have your view on anything you like.
    I disagree that Get Up is a political spammer, i have not found this to be true. I am a supporter of Get Up. Get Up does get up the noses of the Federal Government and its supporters.
    I am a non believer in surveys, as well as the use of statistics or numbers to make a case for criticism, or to impress others that they have legitimate credentials or qualifications.
    A reality check for you, do you believe that any individual knows what is happening in the minds of all Australians at the one time?.
    I suspect you do not know much about the human condition, all humans are flawed, this is why lack of respect for the truth, is so pravelent in these times of manipulation by greedy corporates and lying politicians and their loyal followers.


  2. This is an issue that has not progressed because support for gay marriage was weak while opposition to it was strong. Now, support for it has become stronger (but those who push for it are still a minority) while those who oppose it have become weaker, and the considerable apathy that exists among the majority is neither strong enough to maintain the status quo nor block those who are pushing for it.

    Those who grant benefits should be able to dispense them as they wish. With government-supplied benefits such as Medicare, there is a case that a change to the law is necessary to effect a change in policy, there is a case to be made that civil benefits such as superannuation or insurance should be made to whomever the owner designates the intended recipient to be. If legal change is required, it should be a removal of any prescription to whom these payments can or can’t be paid, or to whom any transfer of ownership can or can’t be made.


  3. Whats this discussion about?
    Marriage itself is I believe old hat, except when law and equal rights are at issue. If a ceremony is required it should be a stat. dec. and get on with life. Who cares what sex is involved. Maybe we need just make it so anyone involved with anyone are jointly and severally responsible for outcomes.


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